Marta and the rest of the Orlando Pride will host Carli Lloyd and the Houston Dash on Saturday for the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime Network. The good news is that the match will be nationally televised at a time when the Orlando Pride are starting to become a dynamic and exciting team to watch. The bad news is that the Match of the Week will be on at 4pm in Orlando in late June. A couple of weeks ago Lifetime made an announcement about revising match times due to concerns over player safety after Houston's Rachel Daly collapsed from heat exhaustion at the end of a nationally televised match. But instead of actually doing anything about putting the matches at a more player-friendly and fan-friendly time (such as 8pm on Saturday nights) they more or less simply paid lip service to the situation.
The match comes one week after the Pride cruised to a 4 - 2 win in Houston over the same Dash team (a game which was closer than it should have been after a late-match defensive mental collapse by the Pride). It will be a chance for the Pride to prove their dominance on their home pitch and redeem themselves for the late-game concentration lapse, or it will be an opportunity for Houston to get revenge on the home pitch of their opponents. Either way, it should be an entertaining match.
Players to Watch
Sadly, there will be one player we won't see on the pitch for sure on Saturday--Christina Burkenroad. The Pride forward has signed with Norwegian club Grand Bodo, according to foreign news reports. This made it possible for the team to waive Burkenroad in order to sign Alex Morgan, who is returning from winning a spring championship with French side Lyon Olympique and maintain the league-mandated maximum 20-player roster. As a fan I will miss Burkenroad's energy, enthusiasm, and infectious smile; I'm also very happy that she will get a chance to further her career by playing in Europe and having that experience of living overseas.
For Houston, it will be Carli Lloyd's second match back after playing the spring season in Europe. She had three shots in the previous match, all of which were on target, but Orlando goalkeeper Auburey Bledsoe and the defense were able to deny her getting on the board or having any assists in the match. She is always dangerous and has the potential to change a game every time she is on the pitch. In terms of team scoring, Poliana Barbosa Medeiros leads the team with 3 goals (good for 16th overall in NWSL), and her teammate Kealia Ohai is second on the team with 2 goals (21st in the league). For assists Kealia Ohai and Andressa Cavalari Machry each have two, and both are in the top 16 in NWSL for assists, while Denise O'Sullivan has one assist (good for 25th in NWSL).
For our Orlando Pride, it should be no surprise that Marta leads the team and all scorers in NWSL with 5 goals on the season. And teammates Camila and Jasmyne Spencer are tied with 3 and each are in the Top 10 for scoring in the league. In terms of assists, Marta and Camila are tied with 3 each on the season, and Jasmyne Spencer has two assists, which puts all three players in the Top 10 for assists in NWSL. And Aubrey Bledsoe is doing a fantastic job in relief of the injured Ashlyn Harris, with a 2 - 1 - 0 record as starting keeper and a shutout under her belt.
The Pride are really starting to come into their own, and they appear to be clicking on all cylinders. While the team will be happy they are climbing up the table and doing well, I think they will all be a bit disappointed with the way last week's match ended by permitting two garbage time goals, and I think they will want to post another clean sheet on their home pitch. I'm not sure they will match the goal scoring tally from last week, but it wouldn't surprise me. I'm going to predict a 2 - 0 victory for the Pride on Saturday. It's the first home match I will miss on the season as I am currently on Doctor Vacation's orders to unwind and de-stress in Salt Lake City, Utah.
What are your thoughts on match--do you think the Pride will continue their great form and post a shutout win at home? Or do you think the mid-afternoon heat will play a role in determining the outcome of this match? Let me know in the comments below!